Neuropathy is damage to a nerve. When nerve injury in the feet leads to neuropathy, symptoms can range from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. TriHealth Orthopedic & Sports Institute and Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine specialists offer expert treatment for foot and ankle neuropathy and nerve entrapment to help heal the nerve and relieve symptoms.
Foot and Ankle Neuropathy and Nerve Entrapment
Nerve entrapment happens when a nerve is under repeated pressure for a long time. Eventually, the covering of the nerve starts to break down and fluid leaks into the nerve, causing swelling and inflammation. Also known as nerve compression or a pinched nerve, nerve entrapment can lead to long-term injury and scarring of the nerve if the pressure is not relieved.
Foot and ankle neuropathy and nerve entrapment causes
Foot and ankle nerve conditions can occur because of injury, stress on the foot or ankle, diabetes and autoimmune diseases. Here are some of the most common types of nerve disorders.
- Morton’s neuroma–The tissue around the nerves that lead to the toes thickens, causing constant burning or pain in the ball of your foot.
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome–The tarsal tunnel is the passageway that contains tendons and nerves that let the foot flex and move, including the tibial nerve. If the tibial nerve is compressed, you may experience numbness, burning or sharp shooting pains.
- Baxter’s nerve entrapment—The lateral plantar nerve runs across the bottom of your foot from the inner ankle side to the little toe. If the nerve becomes compressed in the heel, the result may be numbness and pain in the heel and sole.
- Peroneal neuropathy (foot drop)—The peroneal nerve is in the leg below the knee. Damage to the peroneal nerve can cause pain, tingling or numbness at the top of the foot. It may become difficult to raise your toes, your toes or ankle may feel weak, or your foot may feel like it is dropping when walking. In severe cases, you may be completely unable to lift your toes or foot or turn your ankle.
Foot and ankle neuropathy and nerve entrapment symptoms
Symptoms of foot and ankle neuropathy and nerve entrapment depend on the cause, but the most common symptoms include:
- Sharp or burning pain
- Tingling sensations or feeling that your foot has fallen “asleep”
- Weakness in your foot, toes or ankle
Foot and ankle neuropathy and nerve entrapment treatment
Depending on the cause of the neuropathy, specialists will develop a personalized treatment to help relieve symptoms and restore movement. We can treat most foot and ankle neuropathies and nerve entrapments without surgery. Although surgery may be needed in severe cases. Treatments may include:
- Icing—Icing can relieve swelling and inflammation to help the nerve heal.
- Massage—Massage can relieve compression of the nerve and help with pain.
- Anti-inflammatory medicines—Medicines available over the counter or by prescription can reduce inflammation and pain. Cortisone injections into the affected nerve may be recommended if oral medications are not effective.
- Physical therapy—A physical therapist can help strengthen and stretch your foot and ankle muscles. This can help reduce stiffness and increase flexibility.
- Orthotics—Placing custom inserts or shoe pads inside your shoes can relieve pain and help with mobility.
- Surgery—If nonsurgical treatments do not relieve symptoms, your physician may recommend surgery to decompress the nerve and repair or remove the damaged area. Specialists perform many foot and ankle surgeries using minimally invasive techniques. This involves smaller incisions, less bleeding and often a faster recovery time.
Foot and ankle neuropathy and nerve entrapment risk factors
Factors that may increase your risk of developing neuropathy and nerve entrapment in your foot or ankle include:
- Alcohol abuse
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
- Exposure to toxins
- Family history of neuropathy
- Infections such as Lyme disease or shingles
- Injury to the foot, ankle or lower leg
- Repetitive movements of the feet and ankles
- Vitamin deficiencies, especially some B vitamins
Foot and ankle neuropathy and nerve entrapment prevention
You can help reduce your risk of developing foot or ankle neuropathy and nerve entrapment by taking these precautions:
- Avoid repetitive movements or excessive stress on the feet and ankles.
- If you have a medical condition that raises your risk, get treatment to manage it.
- If you have risk factors, take steps to address them.
Make an appointment
To learn more about foot and ankle neuropathy and nerve entrapment or make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist: Call TriHealth at 513 246 2300 or our orthopedic partner, Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, at 513 354 3700.